A Nouse investigation has found positive results in tests for cocaine at 24 different locations on campus. Positive sites include Heslington Hall, the University’s main administrative centre.
The tests, carried out using specialised cocaine swabs, yielded positive results in toilets in the Sports centre, the departments of Music, Economics and Chemistry, the Information Centre and Grimston House. Positive results were found in Derwent, Langwith, Vanbrugh, Wentworth, James, and Alcuin colleges.
The swabs also tested positive for cocaine in six separate toilets spread across all four floors of the Library.
Nouse reporters carried out positive tests in three separate toilets in Heslington Hall – including a unisex toilet on the first floor, where the offices of the Vice-Chancellor, the University’s Finance Director, the Registrar and the Chair of University Council are housed.
Positive results were also found in the men’s and women’s toilets in the building’s basement, home to the University’s Press and Communications offices.
Disabled toilets in Derwent, Chemistry, the Library and the Information Centre all tested positive. The larger space of a disabled toilet is sometimes taken advantage of when a number of users take cocaine together.
When contacted with the results, the University would not make any staff available for interview. In a statement the University said: “The University obviously takes this issue very seriously, and we will look into the results of Nouse’s investigation as a matter of urgency.” A University spokesperson would not comment on what steps would be taken to follow up the findings.
The spokesperson refused to comment when asked if cocaine use was thought to be a problem among staff.
In the statement the University added that it felt it would be “premature to draw any firm conclusion from these results” and queried the methodology and equipment used by Nouse, despite not asking to see the positive swabs nor seeking details of how the investigation was carried out.
The swabs were purchased from Crackdown Drug Testing Limited, a Manchester-based drug testing company. The company is the primary producer of cocaine swabs in Britain and supplies equipment to the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire police forces as well as the Prison Service.
While unlikely to be used as court evidence, swabs produced by Crackdown are standard issue for field tests for cocaine carried out by a number of law enforcement agencies. A positive field test would usually be sent back to a forensics laboratory for further investigation.
Dave Rigg, a spokesperson for Crackdown, said: “We have complete confidence in the kit. If it tests positive it is almost definite that someone has been snorting cocaine from that surface.”
The swabs contain the chemical compound cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it comes into contact with cocaine, or ‘crack’ – the drug’s smoked variant cut with another substance, most commonly baking powder. Cobalt thiocyanate is one of the most commonly used chemical compounds in drug testing equipment.
The testing was carried out between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening of last week.
A control experiment was carried out on Wednesday morning in which verified cocaine was put on a surface and then swept off. When the surface was swabbed shortly afterwards it tested positive.
YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer-elect Charlie Leyland said: “I’m shocked by cocaine’s prevalence on campus. Just a single use of cocaine potentially puts you at risk of heart failure and death, never mind the long term myriad of problems that are often exaggerated and caused by drug misuse.”
Investigations using similar or identical cocaine swabs have been carried out at the universities of Exeter and Cambridge and the European Parliament. In 2005 reporters from German television broadcaster Sat-1 found 41 positive tests of cocaine inside toilets and offices in the European Parliament building in Brussels. The findings were later confirmed by lab results.